Statement from the University at Buffalo regarding graduate student stipends

Release Date: December 10, 2018

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The university very much values the talent and dedication of its graduate students. Graduate students and in particular doctoral students are critical to UB’s success as a major, public research university. As with students at all levels, UB is dedicated to bringing in the very best doctoral students and providing them with transformative academic programs that prepare them for rewarding careers.

UB deans and academic departments continuously review graduate student programs and funding packages in order to attract the very best students to UB and to ensure their success. This is why the UB College of Arts and Sciences and its academic departments have worked to steadily increase graduate student funding.

Last year, the College of Arts and Sciences implemented a process for raising teaching assistant stipends. The College of Arts and Sciences has partnered with the departments of philosophy, linguistics and English, which has, in particular, made considerable progress. UB’s English department has increased doctoral student stipends by $3,000 this fall. This raises the average amount of stipends awarded to teaching assistants in the English department to $18,000 (from $15,000) for the nine-month academic year, exceeding the national average of $16,364 in that academic discipline. Under a plan approved by departmental faculty, the English department in 2020 will raise the stipend to $19,000 and to as much as $20,000 the following year.

Across the university, graduate students who serve as teaching assistants at UB receive a total funding package averaging about $38,000 per year, which includes a tuition scholarship paid by the university, a stipend and health benefits. The university believes this represents a significant investment in our graduate students.

What is the university’s total investment in PhD student stipends?

The university estimates that a total of $39.5 million was invested in PhD stipends and tuition scholarships at UB in 2017-18. The university remits to the State University of New York system the cost of tuition scholarships provided to graduate assistants

Has the university’s investment in graduate students increased?

Yes, UB’s investment in stipends and tuition scholarships for graduate students has grown by an estimated $8.4 million since 2012-13.

What is the average stipend amount awarded to PhD students at UB?

For the 2017-18 academic year, the average UB stipend was $18,006.  This figure does not include supplemental fellowships awarded to PhD students or payment for extra service such as summer teaching or summer research.

When annualized, the average stipend amount equates to between $22 and $30 per hour. Stipends are awarded for the nine-month academic year for teaching one course and providing up to 20 hours of service per week to an academic department.

What fees are charged to PhD students?

PhD scholarships and fellowships are used to cover tuition and fees.  Stipends are payments for work that offset living expenses.  The average UB doctoral students is charged $1,290 in fees. The median fee charge is $789.  Forty-one percent of doctoral students are charged less than $500.

How do stipend amounts awarded to UB graduate students compare nationally?

UB's average stipend is on par with the stipends paid by other leading research universities, just below the $18,408 average of the 24 institutions that provided data to the Association of American Universities Data Exchange for 2017-18.

How do stipend amounts awarded to UB PhD students compare with MIT’s living wage calculator?

The MIT Living Wage Calculator estimates that someone working full-time (52 weeks per year, 40 hours per week) at their Living Wage rate would earn an annual income of $24,072. The calculation is based on a single adult, living in Erie County making an hourly wage of $11.57, which is MIT’s minimum standard given the local cost of living. This calculation assumes that this single adult works full-time, year round or 2,080 hours per year.

On average, a UB PhD student with an academic year assistantship (40 weeks) earned $18,006 in 2017-18 by working up to 20 hours per week. This translates to an hourly rate of $22.51 for up to 800 hours of work. The New York State minimum wage is $10.40 (through the end of 2018).  The MIT Living Wage is $11.57 per hour. The Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU) contract minimum is $12.45 per hour.

How much of the university’s investment in student stipends is provided by the UB Foundation?

The UB Foundation provides an estimated $5 million annually in support of UB graduate students in the form of scholarships, fellowships and graduate student stipends.

How are unrestricted funds from the UB Foundation used by the university?

Unrestricted funds from UBF are limited in their use and they are used for specific purposes, in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. These funds are limited for use in following three categories.

  • Funds to support UB schools or units. These funds have no donor restrictions, but are limited in their use to a specific school, unit or program.
  • Funds designated for investment purposes. These funds are held to support and maintain endowed programs or positions during periods of market volatility, in accordance with best practice spending policies followed by UBF.
  • Funds that are not liquid; they represent the value of property, plant and equipment assets or fine art assets, or are reserves set aside to maintain university property, plant and equipment.

Editors note: This news release was updated on 12:05 p.m., Dec. 10.

Media Contact Information

Michael Andrei
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Tel: 716-645-9068